THREE years ago, the National Fatwa Council made a decision against women who dressed like men — pengkid — and denounced their behaviour as haram, even as it caused much anger and confusion among the public.
The fatwa, released by the council on Oct 23, 2008, read: “Pengkid, that is, women who have the appearance, mannerisms and sexual orientation similar to men is haram in Islam.
“We urge parents and the Muslim community to pay serious attention to this problem.
“Emphasis should be placed on teaching and guiding young girls, especially on their clothing, behaviour and appearance, so that this problem may be avoided because it runs counter to their fitrah and Allah’s way.”
(Fitrah is the innate natural sexual inclination each person is born with and which does not change. In Islam, if a person is born male, he is masculine and sexually attracted to women; if born a female, she is feminine and sexually attracted to men.)
The episode only came to an end, of sorts, when Department of Islamic Development (Jakim) director-general Datuk Wan Mohamed Sheikh Abd Aziz clarified that the fatwa was meant as an advisory to “arrest the social ill”, and not a law.
He defined pengkid as a married woman or maiden whose appearance or image was like that of a man.
While the fatwa includes the dressing of the person, it’s also about the way she behaves because “a woman may be dressed as a woman but her behaviour may be like a man”.
She may also have sexual desires for women.
Wan Mohamed denied that the fatwa labelled all pengkid as lesbians.
“It is hampir (close to) lesbianism. Hampir means she doesn’t do the act, but is heading that way.
“For instance, Islam forbids people from coming close to zina (adultery). That means, not only is the act forbidden but any act that may lead to the act is also forbidden.
“We are trying to save these women (from becoming lesbians). What would happen if we didn’t advise and save our people?
“If we allow this problem to continue, our Eastern culture will be no different from the Western one. Where will our religious values be?” he had said in an interview with the New Sunday Times then.
He pointed out that the gazetting of the fatwa was at the discretion of the states.
It is learnt that the fatwa has so far remained advisory in most states, except for the Federal Territory of Kuala Lumpur, where it has been gazetted into law and included in Section 34 of the Administration of Islamic Law (Federal Territories) Act 1993.